Borders of everyday life: Congolese young people’s political identification in contexts of conflict-induced displacement


Year: 2008 HiCN Working Paper No. 038

Ethnicity and citizenship issues have been among the contributing causes of conflict in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC) over the past decades. These identity issues are exacerbated by the large-scale migration of people to and from the DRC and neighbouring Rwanda, Burundi and Uganda, both historically and in the context of recent political violence. Using ethnographic data collected over a 15-month period, this paper explores Congolese young people’s self-identification vis-à-vis ethnicity and citizenship discourses in Kampala and Kyaka II refugee settlement, Uganda. In particular, research findings highlight the conceptual and practical implications of the territorialisation of ‘tribe’ and citizenship for migrants; the consequent conflation of ethnicity and nationality in migration contexts; a reinforced notion and assertion of ‘Congoleseness’ among refugee populations, even when this creates conflict with Ugandans; and, migrants’ limited opportunities for formal political participation. Understanding this political context from which Congolese refugees have fled, and to which they are returning and will return, is important in anticipating the peace and conflict implications of current Congolese migrations.

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